Films about addiction are tough. They cut deep and are severe to the point of exploitation, and they’re never as raw or honest as Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy. This is an addiction story, but above that, it’s a story about family and the unconditional love borne from such a special, formidable bond.
Based on David and Nic Sheff’s respective memoirs, Beautiful Boy and Tweak, the film depicts their family’s struggle with methamphetamine addiction. Nic (Timothée Chalamet) is the addict, and David (Steve Carell) is the father trying to save him. This two-hander lends an added openness to confronting America’s crisis: addiction affects not only the user, but everyone around them. It doesn’t attempt to solve the crisis either, because it knows all too well that the road to recovery is long and treacherous.
The biopic can be a dangerous genre. It is notoriously difficult to get right, and many often fall short of the mark; they regularly find themselves bogged down by dullness, and concern themselves far too much with boring details. ‘Battle of the Sexes’, however, never suffers from such issues. Instead, it presents itself as a thoughtful, warm snapshot into the life of Billie Jean King and a powerful depiction of the turmoil that she faced both on and off court. Set in 1973, and featuring a soundtrack that often captures the best of the era, ‘Battle of the Sexes’ focuses on the historic match between King (Emma Stone) and life-long hustler, and former men’s tennis champion, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell). When we consider recent revelations surrounding pay disparity between men and women in some of the largest, richest industries in the world, the film could not have been released at a more appropriate time. It may be set in the seventies, steeped in an age of intolerance and conservativism, but it appears to fit perfectly into modern times, as male chauvinists continue to parade around, even in the White House. As Riggs, Carrell relishes the role and has fun as a showman; embittered by the lack of attention he receives in the media. He cavorts around the tennis courts in a series of ridiculous outfits, more than happy to play the role of the eccentric, self-proclaimed sexist. Carrell’s exaggerated Riggs serves as the perfect contrast to Stone’s measured, yet stubbornly defiant King. Both actors give wonderful performances here, and effortlessly bounce off one another in every scene they share; which makes the two hour runtime feel far shorter than expected, and allows us to fully enjoy the film’s exploration of both characters.